Tour de France- Lance is fourth; Contador helds the Yellow Jersey
The 17th stage of the Tour de France closed today with the victories of Frank Schleck and, behind him, Alberto Contador, who holds the yellow jersey and remains in first place in the overall standings. The 17th stage was the last one run in the Alps this past weekend. The last stretch was a 105 miles long, extending from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand; it is considered by many the toughest stage of this year's Tour.
This stage was the last chance for Lance Armstrong to win the Tour de France this year and overtake his teammate, Alberto Contador, but he wasn't able to make it; he finished in fifth behind Contador and the Luxemburg brothers, Andy and Frank Schleck. Now the distance between Armstrong and Contador is 3:55 minutes in the overall standings, leaving Armstrong in fourth place behind not only Contador but also the Schleck brothers.
This is the second time that Frank Schleck has won a stage on the Alps for the Tour de France; the first was back in 2006. It was the Schleck brothers who were the main problems for Contador; they gave him a hard time, especially as they relayed each other on the last two hills of the stage, making the Spaniard panic. At one point on the last hill the Schleck brothers were alone in front with Contador's teammate, Andreas Kloeden. Contador decided to attack the Schlecks, but in the end he only dropped his teammate, Kloeden. Frank Schleck captured the lead in the stage, followed by Contador and then Andy Schleck in third.
The complete stage had five climbs in total, an advantage for Contador who is among the best climbers. The last two climbs - the Colombierre and the Romme passes - were the most difficult. Even Armstrong couldn't overcome the difficulties; on the Colombierre, Armstrong watched as Contador, the Schleck brothers and Kloeden left him behind. He decided to stay behind to protect Contador from the Brit Bradley Wiggins, but in the last 8.7 mile stretch he tried to accelerate and reach them. He did not, however, succeed.
"I couldn't find my acceleration to go with the other guys," Armstrong said. "I was there stuck with Wiggins. I had to wait until it got steeper, when you knew you could definitely go away. I probably should have gone with the early acceleration."
The next stage of the race takes place on Thursday at Annecy, a 25.3 mile long race. Thursday may provide an opportunity for Armstrong to catch up to the Tour's leaders. Armstrong, along with his teammate Andreas Kloeden, is a great time-trial rider; in fact, many consider the pair much better than the Schleck brothers. Armstrong said that he was going to be careful during tomorrow's race with the time-trial. He will have to work hard to opt for a position on the podium.
But still the toughest climb of the Tour de France is going to be held on Saturday, with an uphill finish at the Mont Ventoux. The Schlecks believe they can recover time during that climb, but we will have to wait and see.
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